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Despite the arguments against it, there are some solid reasons for wanting a gaming laptop. Not lugging a metal chassis heavier than yourself around if you move frequently, being able to work and play anywhere around the house, at a friend's place or even on the move, and lower power draw are but a few. And, if you're in the market for such a beast, the very affordable (in gaming laptop terms) MSI GT627 is one worth looking at.
Despite the gaming notebook segment becoming ever more competitive, the GT627 brings some impressive specifications to the battle including a 1GB GeForce 9800M GS graphics card and an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000 processor, all packed into a relatively small 15.4in package. This ensures the GT627 is more portable than many gaming laptops, with only a select few offering similar processing power in the same footprint.
Initial impressions are certainly good, thanks largely to an above-average bundle consisting of a rucksack and gaming mouse in red and black to match the machine. The backpack looks attractive and is fairly well-padded, with several zippered compartments. Materials appear to be good quality, with metal zip-tags and breathable mesh back and shoulder-straps.
However, the included StarMouse GS-502 is the highlight here. It's classified as a gaming mouse and certainly seems to deserve the title. A contoured shape and indented buttons means south-paws are left out in the cold but does make it very comfortable to use, aided by textured rubber grips a la Logitech's rodents.
It features a laser sensor of up to 1,600dpi (3,200dpi through software), with a switch below the scroll wheel for adjusting between 400/800/1,200 or 1,600 settings. A broad, textured, rubberised four-way scroll-wheel offers notched feedback and is transparent so it can be backlit in green, blue or red to indicate dpi setting.
There's an adjustable weights cartridge system (up to 40 grams) with included container. Two macro-programmable side buttons can be set to perform different functions depending on the selected profile. This can be changed mid-game by yet another button, which like the wheel will be backlit in green, blue or red to indicate the active profile. Final touches include a red-backlit MSI logo and broad Teflon feet. Together with the MSI Gaming Mouse macro software, it makes for a very competent peripheral.
Onto the laptop itself, styling is a mixture between classy and downright cheap. With the machine closed, the rather attractive and rugged black brushed aluminium lid is complemented by a gold-flecked glossy black plastic 'lip' at the front. This would have been a great look if it wasn't spoiled somewhat by a garish red plastic strip at the hinge.
Opening the notebook up things only get worse. Brushed aluminium continues below the keyboard, but the plastic touch-sensitive multimedia and shortcut panel above it is a touch on the garish side, while the dull, cheap red plastic trim now extends around the entire laptop's bottom half. Everyone in the office hated this trim, especially the way it discordantly extends to include the lid's hinges.